Those strip shopping centers--euphemistically called convenience centers--that seemingly have cropped-up overnight on almost every street corner around town are the subject of a new exhibit at the California Museum of Science and Industry.
Sponsored by the Los Angeles chapter of the American Institute of Architects, the exhibit, entitled "Real Problems: Convenience Centers," is the result of the first nationwide design competition organized by the chapter's Associates, coordinated by Donna Jean Brown and Bruno Giberti.
While the competition was organized by architects for architects, the exhibit has been designed for the public, intended to create a cursory awareness of the various aspects of the design process, using the mini-mall as an example.
Even though small, the exhibit does achieve its goal, for the viewer is led through the design process, starting with the text boards displaying Planning Commission memos regarding strip commercial development, and then into plans depicting topographical, view-sun-wind, traffic-parking-access, signage and zoning studies. And ending with the competition's winning theoretical design schemes.
"The convenience center subject was chosen," explains Donna Jean Brown, LA/AIA director of public and professional awareness, "because it's a hot topic now, not only in Los Angeles, but throughout the country."
The designated site for the competition, a corner lot at Hollywood Boulevard and Gower Street, in the heart of the Hollywood Redevelopment Project area, was selected for its vulnerability--now a parking lot, and therefore typically regarded as a prime development target. The competition emphasis was on solving the real urban and architectural problems associated with this type of building, including car and pedestrian circulation, zoning, signage, scale and proportion.
On display are nine design schemes, three of which won top awards, and six that were given honorable mentions. These were selected from a field of 24 entrants six months ago by a jury composed of Councilman Michael Woo, Craig Hodgetts, architect and partner in Hodgetts & Fung Design Associates; Richard Bruckner, a senior city planner for the Community Redevelopment Agency, assigned to the proposed Hollywood Redevelopment Project; Jay Nickels, architect and partner in Reibsamen, Nickels Rex; Fran Offenhauser, architect with Gruen Associates and immediate past president of Hollywood Heritage; John Pastier, architectural writer and critic, and Larry Worchel, a developer.
In evaluating the submissions, jury foreman Craig Hodgetts wrote that the jurors were "unanimous in (their) rejection of proposals which offered no advance over existing practice, failed to solve technical problems of parking or pedestrian accommodation, or ignored the realities of context or program in order to indulge a strictly 'architectural' agenda."
The most outlandish and fun visual image of the winning schemes was created by Dana Terp and Lyn Meyers of Chicago, who covered the whole Hollywood Boulevard facade with a billboard-like pink Cadillac, in the tradition of pop architecture so common in Los Angeles in the 1950s.
The other top award winners, William Sloan and William Gentile, and Jason A. Balinbin, designed more plausible schemes that addressed contextual imagery in relation to the nitty-gritty issues of human scale and circulation planning.
The "Real Problems: Convenience Centers" exhibit, which runs through the end of September, is located in The City Room (a space dedicated to exhibitions in the fields of architecture, construction, transportation and urban regional planning) in the California Museum of Science and Industry at Exposition Park. Admission is free.
In other design news: The Santa Monica Arts Commission is sponsoring an exhibit of 49 proposals of artworks intended for the Ocean Park Project. The exhibit will be held at the Santa Monica Heritage Square Museum, 2612 Main St., at Ocean Park Boulevard, from Thursday through June 8. Admission is free.
The public is invited to attend the Los Angeles Conservancy's annual meeting, to be held at the Dominguez Ranch on Saturday. For reservations, call 623-CITY; admission is free.
The California Preservation Foundation's "Preservationist of the Year" award was given to Claire Bogaard, Pasadena Heritage executive director, and to Nancy Shanahan, former attorney for the western region of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The presentation was made at the 11th annual State Preservation Conference held in Monterey.